David Avellan BJJ Interview: Master the BASICS!

This article was created with permission of ADCC medalist David Avellan, creator of the Kimura Trap System (learn more here). A big thanks to David for the interview, enjoy the article:

No matter how good you are at the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it’s easy to get eager and want to continue taking steps forward on your path to becoming a better grappler.  Especially after those first few sessions, you just want more and more Jiu Jitsu!

While ambition is a great thing to have, it can also be dangerous if you let it take control of how you see yourself in the grand scheme of things.  Wanting to know too much, too fast could set you back in your progression as a grappler and could even cause injury to yourself and others!

Taking time to learn the ropes, and not only that, but make them one of your strengths as a grappler, is something that can be very helpful further down the road once you progress in BJJ.  If you don’t have these foundational building blocks down pat, then there will be a lot more missing from your game further down the road.

Recently, I sat down with David Avellan to discuss a plethora of topics regarding Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and during our talk David gave me his two cents on how important drilling properly—both form, function and structurally—is for grapplers, and how to make the process easier by breaking it down into four stages, as opposed to making it one big chunk.

The Four Learning Phases of Grappling

Like anything you do for the first few times, learing speicifc moves and techniques won’t “click” right away.  It takes time to digest these sequences, and you must allow proper time for your body to learn the move and let your muscles adapt.

However, it’s more than just the physical aspect of learning.

David broke down the four phases of learning that he and his students go through when presented with a new technique to learn:

1)      The Observation Phase.  This is where you are seeing the move for the first time.  There is no need to rush through this part; take your time to see it and understand the intricacies of it all.

2)      The Practice Phase.  Slowly but surely, this is where you begin to put the move into action.  This should be done in a controlled manner, and broken down into pieces, allowing you to understand the move better.

3)      The Drilling Phase.  This is where you begin to pick up the pace a little bit.  You may not be executing it flawlessly, but the move should be done at a good pace and to the best of your ability, no more taking it easy!

4)      The Live Phase.  This is the point where everything is flowing nicely, and you’re feeling comfortable with the technique!  Take the training wheels off, and put what you’ve learned into motion!

“After the live phase,” Avellan tells me, “you go back to the observation phase.”  This allows you to learn from what you did or didn’t do, and you can continue to sharpen that specific skill.

Structuring Your Training Schedule To Have Meaning

David Avellan Grappling at the ADCC 2009

David Avellan Grappling at the ADCC 2009

Going through the four phases isn’t the only vital part to learn a new move, it’s the structure of which you learn it and how things flow when you’re on the mat with everybody.

As someone who is familiar with running classes, it’s arguably the most important part of teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (see a good example of some fast-paced BJJ drills here).  Presenting the moves in a structured format allows your students to learn them at the same speed, without any feeling too left out or too anxious to move on.

By starting with a kimura one day, then an inverted heel hook the next does nothing for your students!  It only muddies the water, and forces them to go from zero to sixty in the blink of an eye.  As cliché as it sounds, slow and steady does win the race!

When discussing the importance of learning the foundational skills of BJJ, and having a well planned learning structure, David summed it up best, “I’m still learning.”

That’s right, an accomplished grappler such as David Avellan is still learning!

“You can’t be exposed to something for too much,” Avellan continued.  “It’s not possible.”

There’s no secret to success, the formula is very basic and rather forthcoming.  Work hard and work smart, and everything else will fall into place as it should.  Put the time and dedication that is needed to succeed, and great things will surely follow!

Dan Faggella

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